Tears shed as defence for former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang sums up closing argument at bribery trial
Former chief executive’s wife and sister break down with emotion as his lawyer refutes accusations that Tsang is a liar
The lawyer for Donald Tsang Yam-kuen defended his integrity against accusations of being a liar in a last-ditch appeal to jurors on Friday, sparking emotional outbursts in the courtroom from the former Hong Kong leader’s family.
Wrapping up his closing remarks, defence counsel Selwyn Yu SC said the bribery charge against the former chief executive was baseless and prosecutors had relied on dismissing as a lie Tsang’s every act or word.
“Whatever he said was a lie. What he did not say was a lie,” he said.
When Yu recalled the prosecutors’ bid to cast Tsang as a liar, his sister, Katherine Tsang King-suen, rushed out of the courtroom, sobbing, as his wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei wiped her eyes with tissues.
Tsang, 73, has denied one count of accepting an advantage when he was in office between 2010 and 2012. The charge stems from allegations that Tsang received from Wave Media a custom-made refurbishment worth HK$3.8 million (US$487,000) for a mainland penthouse, and in return, was “favourably disposed” to the local broadcaster.
Yu accused prosecutors of resorting to “distractions” and irrelevant “minor details” to prop up “unwarranted allegations” that painted a legal commercial deal as an act of clandestine corruption.
“He has his flaws. He is imperfect,” but, the barrister told the jury, that it did not mean Tsang was corrupt.
Yu cited an old Chinese saying to describe Tsang’s situation: “If you’re out to condemn someone you will always come up with the charge.”
Yu argued that what Tsang told the media, when they began to look into his conduct in 2012, had held a“ring of truth”, despite the prosecutors’ allegation that it did not contain all the “key facts”.
He noted Tsang had volunteered details about the penthouse to the press before the trial, which he said were not the actions of a guilty man.
“Wouldn’t it make more sense if he simply kept silent about it?” Yu told the jury, adding that Tsang did not disclose more details because he had to draw the line between privacy and transparency somewhere.
The prosecutors had alleged Tsang had been on trips to mainland with Bill Wong Cho-bau, the majority shareholder of Wave Media who owned the Shenzhen penthouse in question and footed the renovation bill. They said travel records showed they were on the mainland at the same time, hinting that they would have met.
The prosecution also cited trips on private yachts and jets Tsang made with other friends, along with the Medal of Honour Tsang gave to Barrie Ho Chow-lai, the designer of the penthouse – although the excursions and medal were not included in the charge.
These are all “distractions”, Yu said, adding that the fundamental question was whether the jury could be sure the renovation was accepted as an “award or inducement” for Tsang to become “favourably disposed” to Wave Media.
“I must ask you to cast your previous impression of Mr Tsang away in your mind and judge him according to the evidence in our case,” he said.
The courtroom was packed with new faces who came to support Tsang, including Albert Ho Chun-yan, a former Democratic Party lawmaker, and Gary Chan Hak-kan, a pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong legislator. Tsang hugged and shook hands with Chan during a break in the proceedings.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Chan Hing-wai was expected to direct jurors about deliberations on Tuesday. Deliberations were expected to begin on Thursday.